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2015, Cilt 5, Sayı 3, Sayfa(lar) 219-235
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DOI: 10.5961/jhes.2015.125
Scientists' Responsibilities Towards Science: A Proposal for an Ethical Justification
Mehmet AKÖZER1, Emel AKÖZER2
1Social Sector Consultant, Ankara, Turkey
2Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Architecture, Ankara, Turkey
Keywords: Scientific research ethics, Ethical justification, Eugenics, Genetic determinism

In policy statements on ethics of scientific research and in codes of conduct developed since the mid–1990s it has often been deemed sufficient to provide an instrumentalist justification of scientists' responsibilities towards science and the scientific community, addressing essentially the need “to build trust between science and society.” This paper aims to demonstrate the feasibility and importance of an ethical justification of such responsibilities with reference to Kant's moral philosophy and Popper's critical rationalist epistemology that has its roots in the former. It argues that it is possible to derive internationally recognized standards for research integrity in a consistent manner (without recourse to ethical pluralism) by postulating respect for truth – science's epistemic goal – as a moral duty, and by adopting the “absolute inner worth” (dignity) of each and every human being as the supreme limiting condition for scientists' subjective goals in their search for truth, and for the means and methods employed for achieving these goals. Recognition of human being's rational nature and moral autonomy and respect for her absolute inner worth, which, in accordance with the Kantian categorical imperative, ought to be the objective principle of all action, also provides an insurance against temptations of ideological prejudgements, by fixing scientific inquiry on the route to its epistemic goal, and thus advances cognitions of the understanding. Conversely, incorporating presuppositions irreconcilable with this absolute worth at any stage of research, from hypothesis formation to the interpretation of findings, may be considered as an advance indication of a research program's epistemic defectiveness and its inevitable failure. As an exemplary incident of fateful programmatic failure caused by relativizing human worth in a research initiative, the paper traces the consequences of the influence that genetic determinism has exerted on science from roughly the last quarter of the 19th century to the present.

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